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Writing effective blog headlines

megaphone clipartWhich headlines catch your attention and why?

This  ought to be a question that every better blogger asks themselves and answers before creating their own.

Once a draft headline (blog title) has been created then assessing it by answering additional questions makes good sense too.

  1. Is it specific?
  2. Is it focused?
  3. Is it credible?
  4. Does it touch a nerve?
  5. Is it easy to understand?
  6. Does it provoke curiosity?
  7. Does it invite conversation?
  8. Does it have a newsy element?
  9. Does it deliver a complete message?
  10. Does it make a unique claim or statement?
  11. Does it offer a compelling benefit for reading?

Headline (Blog Title) Tips

(1)    The primary purpose of the headline is to get attention.  The way to do this is to write a headline that attracts reader interest (the hook).

(2)  The secondary purpose of the headline is to  capture the essence of the post in a nutshell, and makes readers eager to find out more about  what the body of your post contains.

(3)   The best way to write a good headline is to keep it simple and direct. Be clever only when being clever is called for.  Don’t yield to the temptation to write cute headlines or slogans unless doing so fits especially well with the content and tone of the story.

(4)   Effective headlines include keywords. They have  logical sentence structure, active voice and strong present-tense verbs.  As with any good writing, good headlines are driven by good verbs. The rule of thumb is: use present tense for immediate past information, past tense for past perfect, and future tense for coming events.

(5)  Do not capitalize every word. Most headline words appear in lower-case letters.  The first word in the headline  should be capitalized as should all proper nouns.


Headline Categories

In The Copywriter’s Handbook, copywriter extraordinaire Bob Bly provides  eight time-tested headline categories.

I find it helpful to check this list of possible headline categories before I write a headline so maybe you will  benefit from doing the same  thing too.

The eight headline categories  are:

  1. Direct Headlines go straight to the heart of the matter, without any attempt at cleverness;
  2. Indirect Headlines use curiosity to raise a question in the reader’s mind, which the body copy answers;
  3. News Headlines are  self-explanatory;
  4. How to Headline are likewise self-explanatory;
  5. A Question Headline must do more than simply ask a question, it must be a question the reader can empathize with or would like to see answered;
  6. The Command Headline boldly tells the reader what he needs to do, thus, the first word should be a strong verb demanding action;
  7. The Reason Why Headline is a listing technique that underlies the blogger “list” posts (the text in the body of your posts consists of a numbered list of ______________ which you then incorporate into the headline;
  8. Testimonial Headlines present outside proof that you offer great value in your post.


21 thoughts on “Writing effective blog headlines

  1. ups, norwegian

    Now I have read many posts here and learned a lot. Thank you for sharing information in an easily understandable way:)

  2. …I try to avoid punctuation in a headline because I’ve found some feed readers substitute them with “?”, which can make for some bizarre questions. Also, headlines should be distinct from the story body. Turning a sentence into a headline, or giving a headline the structure of a sentence, just seems lazy. Although, if it’s an interesting sentence, I don’t think I’d skip reading the post just because there was an exclamation point.

    I do capitalize my headlines almost all the time, and now I’m not sure why. I think it might be a style thing… actually I might have picked it up from book titles, but you’re right, now that I look at them it does look a little… maybe aggressive. At the same time, all lower caps is just wrong.

    I just checked my ten-year old copy of the Canadian Press Style Book, and — except for names and a few other examples — headline capitalization is definitely out. Yikes.

  3. I feel like I’m going back to school. The information content you provide is simple and professional. Thanks for the education.

  4. I really appreciate these almost daily tips in your alert box at the top of the page. It’s like getting double the fun: your current blog post plus a tip and link to another post. I also find Bob Bly to be a terrific copywriting resource.

    • @Sandra Lee
      You are the first reader who has referred to my Alert Box tips. I was beginning to think no one was reading them and I may as well not create them. However, now that you have commented that you like them I feel encouraged to post more. Thanks for your supportive feedback. I appreciate it. :)

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  8. @eddy
    Thanks for dropping in and inviting me to visit your blog. I would have much preferred receiving feed back on my post but I’ll leave it to you to do that the next time you leave a comment.

  9. @Sayz Lim
    I’m always aware of what your blog posts contain because your titles are direct and they let me know exactly what to expect in the text in the post. I’m glad this title lured you in the read my article. Your blog is coming along so well that it makes me smile. :-)

  10. let say the post title is

    it sure is took attention.. so add one more
    thing – “no clue title”

    i like to use question, but sometime it not good because
    if we ask something that usually been talk about
    people will suggest “here we go another post of bla bla”
    and they go without read.

    nice tips!

  11. Great tips thanks for sharing TT, :)

    BTW I also posted a link to this article on my
    new twitter type blog called “Grid360” You can
    find the link to the Blog tweet here.

  12. I prefer direct headlines since I don’t want to figure out the content form indirect headline.

    I subscribe to many blog, and I always skim the title before reading it. And “Writing Effective Headline” is direct enough for me to read.


  13. Awesome post on headlines! I do agree that headlines draw me in as a reader!

    When I am checking out a blog, the first thing I do is go through the post titles/headlines and choose the one that catches my eye and imagination/interest!

    Great Post! Very informative and helpful, Thank-you!

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